MR EDWIN TAN, CONNECTIONS BUILDER
"Despite the difficulties he faces with his poor vision, Edwin does not wallow in self-pity. Instead, he chooses to give back to society and help others who are less fortunate."
— Dr Chan Choi Mun, Senior Consultant, Medical Retina Department, Singapore National Eye Centre
I was in primary school when I first learnt that I had an eye disorder. We were going through a routine health screening and I was unable to read some of the numbers on the colour blindness chart. I was asked to go for further checks and was diagnosed with a rare hereditary condition called retinitis pigmentosa or bilateral rod cone dystrophy.
In a nutshell, the light-sensing cells at the back of my eyes gradually break down and cause visual impairment. I also have bilateral cataracts which further limit my sight. These conditions render me legally blind.
Growing up with visual impairment is not easy, but I have learnt to use a variety of tools to help me stay independent in my daily life. I use voiceover and text-to-speech software to "read" text on my digital devices, and magnifiers to enlarge text in print media so that I can read them. I also use a white cane to get around on my own.
After I graduated from Temasek Polytechnic, I joined a local social enterprise, Fairmarch, which is an online marketplace for socially and environmentally responsible products. I help my organisation with its online marketplace business, and am happy to be able to play a part in sustaining a source of income for people with disabilities who wish to sell their products.
In my free time, I enjoy playing chess, and refuse to let my visual impairment get in the way of honing my skills. I have represented Singapore at international chess tournaments as a para chess athlete, including the ASEAN Para Games in 2015! In order to play, I memorise the entire chess board, where each piece is and where my opponent moves the pieces at every turn. After visualising the current board state, I strategise my subsequent moves to win the game.
I am also an ardent supporter of local causes. In 2012, I joined Runninghour, a sports club that promotes integration of people with special needs through running or walking. We are paired with sighted volunteers to exercise at different parks in Singapore.
In 2018, I joined the Youth Development Programme organised by SPD, a local charity that supports people with disabilities. The programme invites youths to come up with solutions for social problems under the guidance of a mentor. My team held workshops for autistic students at Singapore Polytechnic to teach them to better manage interpersonal conflicts and their moods.
My most memorable moment was being invited to deliver a speech at the Global Compact Network Singapore Youth Forum in 2019, where Presiden Halimah Yacob was the guest-of-honour. I spoke about empowering persons with disabilities to gain meaningful employment. It was an honour to speak at such a prestigious event.
Although I am visually impaired, I am still able-bodied and can accomplish many things. People with disabilities are not limited — I believe that we can and should take the initiative to better the lives of people in our community.
The annual Singapore Health Inspirational Patient and Caregiver Awards honour individuals for their strength, courage and resilience in the face of health challenges, as well as outstanding patient support groups that have provided invaluable support to patients and caregivers.
Each year, our winners continue to inspire us with their ability to overcome adversity. Their experiences provide valuable learning for the doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and other healthcare workers.
This year, SingHealth recognises 27 winners who, amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, continue to motivate healthcare professionals to deliver better care and inspire many others with their zest for life. Read their inspiring stories here.
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